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Published at 20th of June 2023 10:08:05 AM


Chapter 76

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Act 3 - The School Festival

19-5 

I――――Ugawa Mia am a famous celebrity known as an idol.

The Millefeuille Stars, to which I belong to, sell out of CDs instantly whenever we release a new song, and are so popular that we stay at the top of the charts on download sites for at least a month.

When we hold concerts, tickets sell out instantly as well, and our merchandise never stops selling.

If we have such a good track record, we should be a little proud of it, right?

But that's not important right now.

What I'm trying to say is that no matter how I choose my words, I've become someone that can hardly be called an ordinary person.

Of course, I wanted to be, and I have no regrets about this.

However――――sometimes I really wish I wasn't "MIA" at all.

Especially when I'm in disguise like this.

I remember the day I was approached for the first time when I was walking down the street.

I remember feeling overwhelmingly happy that I had become famous and succeeded.

But it was only for a week or so that I felt like a star.

Whenever people gathered around me on the street, the size of the crowd meant that there were people who would be blocked from passing by.

It is a matter of course that I should not do anything that would disturb others. That is why I decided to disguise my appearance more carefully than anyone else.

In the beginning, it was fun because I felt like a different person than I usually am.

But gradually, I grew tired of pretending to be someone I'm not, and now I don't even want to go out as much as possible.

Maybe it's because I've been living like that that I sought "her" side.

"Yup......Everything looks fine, I think?" (Mia)

Looking at my reflection in the mirror, I nod my head.

This is the restroom in the arcade where we had taken our Photobox shots.

I've taken off my disguise for just one shoot, and I'm putting back on my disguise to go back home.

I know it seems like a hassle, but it's necessary to avoid causing trouble for Rintaro-kun.

"Hmm?" (Mia)

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Just when I think I've finally gotten rid of my "MIA"-ness, my phone in my bag suddenly shakes.

It seems that Rintaro-kun has sent me a Line message.

"......It said the next one will be the last. What are we gonna do?" (Rintaro)

From the Photobox, a voice announces that it'll be the last one.

Apparently, the last take is a free pose, so there're no specific instructions.

"Or, are you okay?" (Rintaro)

While I worried about the significant diminishment in her talking, Mia nods her head and clutches my chest.

"Hey, Rintaro-kun." (Mia)

"What is it?" (Rintaro)

"Can I ask you a favor for the last take?" (Mia)

"It depends on the content." (Rintaro)

"I want you to take another picture of us in the pose you lift me up." (Mia)

I tilt my head, not understanding the true meaning of her request.

"Are you sure? We already took two pictures of us in the same pose." (Rintaro)

"I am. I want to have this last one to be taken as Ugawa Mia." (Mia)

Mia takes off her wig right in front of me.

The black bob cut, which is her natural color, is revealed.

Although her face is a little different from her normal face, perhaps due to the makeup, she certainly looks like the Mia I am familiar with.

"Here I can take off my disguise and people won't know, this is great, isn't it?" (Mia)

"......It is. That's about right." (Rintaro)

Mia nods happily and leans her body against me again.

I lifts her body in the same way as before, and the shutter pressed at the end of the count.

This time, we are not looking at each other, but instead, we are genuinely looking at the camera.

To be honest, I feel extremely embarrassed, though――――well, since Mia looks satisfied, I guess it's fine.

"You're a pretty lady! Hey, hey, are you interested in a job that pays well?"

"...Huh?" (Mia)

I'm sorry to say this to someone I just met, but I don't have a good impression of this person.

He's wearing a sloppy suit, with flashy dyed hair that is stiffly styled with wax on his head.

His attitude seems to say, "This is cool, right?" and it's somewhat irritating, as he doesn't seem to understand fashion that suited him at all, which is somewhat comical.

"I'm introducing night jobs and such. I've been going around and talking to girls like you who seem like they could earn some money. But no one listens to me at all... I'm in a pinch with my quota this month, you know? Can you understand? I'll introduce you to a job where you can quickly make a lot of money by entertaining men, so can you come with me to the office for a bit?"

"..." (Mia)

From the bits and pieces of what I heard, it's likely that this man is a scout.

However, no matter how I look at or listen to him, he's only doing things that would damage the reputation of people who work seriously as scouts.

His remarks seemed to be contemptuous of the women who were supposed to be the targets of his scouting, and he emphasized only the money aspect.

Money itself is not a bad thing, but the way he talked about it was too foul.

It is best to ignore people like him.

"Hey, wait a minute."

"Huh...?" (Mia)

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Usually, people like this would give up if you ignored them, but this person grabs my arm with an irritated tone.

It hurts a little because he suddenly squeezes my arm tightly.

"I told you I'm in trouble, didn't I? Isn't it strange to ignore me?"

"....I'm in a hurry." (Mia)

"That-is-why, I'm really troubled that you won't listen to me. Can't you help me out a bit?"

――――It's no use, this person won't listen.

The people around us seem to comprehend this situation, but they just walk away, avoiding us.

I can't blame them for that, but my weak side is screaming for help if possible.

"Just by listening to me at the office, I'll be really grateful. Please, won't you help me out? I'll make sure you earn some money."

"I-I'm a minor, so I can't do that kind of work." (Mia)

"Oh, come on. You can't be a minor with such a mature appearance, right? Can you not lie to me?"

His hand, which is holding onto my arm, tightened even more.

If I show my student ID here, I can prove that I'm a minor.

However, it's also a double-edged sword that will reveal that I'm MIA of MilleSta.

If this man finds out that I am MIA, I don't know what he'll do.

"I~'ll be in much trouble...... Can't you just give in soon? Look, our office is in that building over there!" 

"――――" (Mia)

"Silence means it's okay, right? Let's get going then!"

It's not.

Even though I try to scream, my voice won't come out.

I can't hide my agitation about my current situation.

For some reason, tears wells up in the corners of my eyes and my body stiffened. 

"Don't be so scared. I won't do anything bad." 

Am I――――scared?

◇◆◇

Seeing me choking up at the "couple" part, Mia giggles again in amusement.

Phew, I guess I'm finally getting back on the right track now.

I follow Mia's lead.

Eventually, we arrive at a large game center in front of the train station, where there is a lot of noise.

"A game center, huh?" (Rintaro)

"Yes. To be honest, I've never been to one by myself, nor have I been with Rei or Kanon, so I was a bit curious about it. Are you familiar with this place?" (Mia)

"No, I've only been here a few times." (Rintaro)

"Is that so?" (Mia)

"I'm not good with big noises...... see, there are all kinds of sound effects and music mixed in, right? That's why I never came here voluntarily." (Rintaro)

I've never been in those places because I'm underage, but I am not comfortable with places like pachinko parlors and such, more so than at a game center.

Maybe that's why I'm less interested in such places.

"Ah ....., then maybe you're not very interested in...... it?" (Mia)

"I'm not. It's not like I'm allergic to it, nor hate it. As long as it's with you, I'll go anywhere today." (Rintaro)

"......If so, then I'll take your word for it." (Mia)

Mia looks a little apologetic as she makes her way into the game center.

That was a mistake, I reflect to myself.

I feel bad for both Mia and the game center for showing a lack of enthusiasm in front of the store when we got there.

If I was going to tell her that I wasn't good at it, I should have said so more clearly.

On top of that, if I could have said I didn't want to go there, I would have been able to go to another place without getting into a strange situation――――.

I――――Ugawa Mia am a famous celebrity known as an idol.

The Millefeuille Stars, to which I belong to, sell out of CDs instantly whenever we release a new song, and are so popular that we stay at the top of the charts on download sites for at least a month.

When we hold concerts, tickets sell out instantly as well, and our merchandise never stops selling.

If we have such a good track record, we should be a little proud of it, right?

But that's not important right now.

What I'm trying to say is that no matter how I choose my words, I've become someone that can hardly be called an ordinary person.

Of course, I wanted to be, and I have no regrets about this.

However――――sometimes I really wish I wasn't "MIA" at all.

Especially when I'm in disguise like this.

I remember the day I was approached for the first time when I was walking down the street.

I remember feeling overwhelmingly happy that I had become famous and succeeded.

But it was only for a week or so that I felt like a star.

Whenever people gathered around me on the street, the size of the crowd meant that there were people who would be blocked from passing by.

It is a matter of course that I should not do anything that would disturb others. That is why I decided to disguise my appearance more carefully than anyone else.

In the beginning, it was fun because I felt like a different person than I usually am.

But gradually, I grew tired of pretending to be someone I'm not, and now I don't even want to go out as much as possible.

Maybe it's because I've been living like that that I sought "her" side.

"Yup......Everything looks fine, I think?" (Mia)

Looking at my reflection in the mirror, I nod my head.

This is the restroom in the arcade where we had taken our Photobox shots.

I've taken off my disguise for just one shoot, and I'm putting back on my disguise to go back home.

I know it seems like a hassle, but it's necessary to avoid causing trouble for Rintaro-kun.

"Hmm?" (Mia)

Just when I think I've finally gotten rid of my "MIA"-ness, my phone in my bag suddenly shakes.

It seems that Rintaro-kun has sent me a Line message.

Seeing me choking up at the "couple" part, Mia giggles again in amusement.

Phew, I guess I'm finally getting back on the right track now.

I follow Mia's lead.

Eventually, we arrive at a large game center in front of the train station, where there is a lot of noise.

"A game center, huh?" (Rintaro)

"Yes. To be honest, I've never been to one by myself, nor have I been with Rei or Kanon, so I was a bit curious about it. Are you familiar with this place?" (Mia)

"No, I've only been here a few times." (Rintaro)

"Is that so?" (Mia)

"I'm not good with big noises...... see, there are all kinds of sound effects and music mixed in, right? That's why I never came here voluntarily." (Rintaro)

I've never been in those places because I'm underage, but I am not comfortable with places like pachinko parlors and such, more so than at a game center.

Maybe that's why I'm less interested in such places.

"Ah ....., then maybe you're not very interested in...... it?" (Mia)

"I'm not. It's not like I'm allergic to it, nor hate it. As long as it's with you, I'll go anywhere today." (Rintaro)

"......If so, then I'll take your word for it." (Mia)

Mia looks a little apologetic as she makes her way into the game center.

That was a mistake, I reflect to myself.

I feel bad for both Mia and the game center for showing a lack of enthusiasm in front of the store when we got there.

If I was going to tell her that I wasn't good at it, I should have said so more clearly.

On top of that, if I could have said I didn't want to go there, I would have been able to go to another place without getting into a strange situation――――.

[I'm sorry. I suddenly have a stomach-ache and need to go to the bathroom. So, please wait a moment.] (Rintaro)

"Oh no..." (Mia)

I instinctively held my head.

I don't know for sure why, but I have a feeling that the ramen we had for lunch was the cause. Under the weight of guilt, I try to figure out what to do. 

(...Medicine. That's right, I have to go get medicine for him.)

There should be a pharmacy nearby. If I bought medicine to relieve his stomachache, it might make up for my mistake. 

I check my disguise in the mirror one last time and confirmed, then I run outside. Perhaps because we had spent a lot of time playing UFO catchers, the day is already starting to turn into the evening. 

"It's already this late..." (Mia)

I look up at the sky and mutter so to myself. The day is coming to an end. It's a bit disappointing, although I was experiencing a day that I hadn't felt short in a long time.

(I...... had a lot more fun than I thought I would.)

When I'm by Rintaro-kun's side, I can go back to being "Ugawa Mia" instead of "MIA".

It was something I was grateful for and appreciated, but he probably wouldn't understand just how much I felt that.

But that's fine.

I enter a pharmacy a little ways away from the game center and buy medicine and water. I told Rintaro-kun that I would leave the game center for a while and asked him to wait there. 

(Is this what it's like to take care of a sick boyfriend, I wonder?)

Looking at the medicine and water in the bag. I'm happy to have achieved my goal.

So that means, this lover's game will come to an end.

"Aa~h, how unfortunate." (Mia)

Taking advantage of Rintaro-kun's absence, I spill those words out of my relaxed mouth.

――――At that moment, a man appears in front of me. 

(PTW/N: We're no strangers to the trope, You know the rules and so do I.)

[Next up, you two hug each other!]

I want to hit it now, this b*stard.

"That is indeed a little embarrassing." (Mia)

"Err, are you going to do it?" (Rintaro)

"You'll never know unless you try. Right?" (Mia)

I ask myself if we can hug each other when we didn't even hold hands.

No, it'll be impossible.

The only reason――――I refused to hold hands was because of the way people looked at me.

I needed to maintain a distance that would allow me to claim that we were only friends in appearance so that I would have an excuse.

But now I don't have those pesky eyes around.

(......Even if it is)

I take a step away from Mia.

"......I see, you can't do it." (Mia)

"Sorry. I'm not saying I hate it, but it's hard to be in close contact with a girl I'm not even dating." (Rintaro)

"Although you were fine with taking a bath together with me?" (Mia)

"I don't have anything to say to that." (Rintaro)

It's true that I don't hate it.

As a man, it's a great pleasure to be able to hug such a beautiful woman.

But, I wonder why.

"What a pretty lady you are! Hey, hey, are you interested in a job that pays well?"

"...Huh?" (Mia)

I'm sorry to say this to someone I just met, but I don't have a good impression of this person.

He's wearing a sloppy suit, with flashy dyed hair that is stiffly styled with wax on his head.

His attitude seems to say, "This is cool, right?" and it's somewhat irritating, as he doesn't seem to understand fashion that suited him at all, which is somewhat comical.

"I'm introducing night jobs and such. I've been going around and talking to girls like you who seem like they could earn some money. But no one listens to me at all... I'm in a pinch with my quota this month, you know? Can you understand? I'll introduce you to a job where you can quickly make a lot of money by entertaining men, so can you come with me to the office for a bit?"

"..." (Mia)

From the bits and pieces of what I heard, it's likely that this man is a scout.

However, no matter how I look at or listen to him, he's only doing things that would damage the reputation of people who work seriously as scouts.

His remarks seemed to be contemptuous of the women who were supposed to be the targets of his scouting, and he emphasized only the money aspect.

Money itself is not a bad thing, but the way he talked about it was too foul.

It is best to ignore people like him.

"Hey, wait a minute."

"Eh...?" (Mia)

Usually, people like this would give up if you ignored them, but this person grabs my arm with an irritated tone.

It hurts a little because he suddenly squeezes my arm tightly.

"I told you I'm in trouble, didn't I? Isn't it strange to ignore me?"

"....I'm in a hurry." (Mia)

"That-is-why, I'm really troubled that you won't listen to me. Can't you help me out a bit?"

――――It's no use, this person won't listen.

The people around us seem to comprehend this situation, but they just walk away, avoiding us.

I can't blame them for that, but my weak side is screaming for help if possible.

"Just by listening to me at the office, I'll be really grateful. Please, won't you help me out? I'll make sure you earn some money."

"I-I'm a minor, so I can't do that kind of work." (Mia)

"Oh, come on. You can't be a minor with such a mature appearance, right? Can you not lie to me?"

His hand, which is holding onto my arm, tightened even more.

If I show my student ID here, I can prove that I'm a minor.

However, it's also a double-edged sword that will reveal that I'm MIA of MilleSta.

If this man finds out that I am MIA, I don't know what he'll do.

"I~'ll be in much trouble...... Can't you just give in soon? Look, our office is in that building over there!" 

"――――" (Mia)

"Silence means it's okay, right? Let's get going then!"

It's not.

Even though I try to scream, my voice won't come out.

I can't hide my agitation about my current situation.

For some reason, tears wells up in the corners of my eyes and my body stiffened. 

"Don't be so scared. I won't do anything bad." 

Am I――――scared?

Seeing me choking up at the "couple" part, Mia giggles again in amusement.

Phew, I guess I'm finally getting back on the right track now.

I follow Mia's lead.

Eventually, we arrive at a large game center in front of the train station, where there is a lot of noise.

"A game center, huh?" (Rintaro)

"Yes. To be honest, I've never been to one by myself, nor have I been with Rei or Kanon, so I was a bit curious about it. Are you familiar with this place?" (Mia)

"No, I've only been here a few times." (Rintaro)

"Is that so?" (Mia)

"I'm not good with big noises...... see, there are all kinds of sound effects and music mixed in, right? That's why I never came here voluntarily." (Rintaro)

I've never been in those places because I'm underage, but I am not comfortable with places like pachinko parlors and such, more so than at a game center.

Maybe that's why I'm less interested in such places.

"Ah ....., then maybe you're not very interested in...... it?" (Mia)

"I'm not. It's not like I'm allergic to it, nor hate it. As long as it's with you, I'll go anywhere today." (Rintaro)

"......If so, then I'll take your word for it." (Mia)

Mia looks a little apologetic as she makes her way into the game center.

That was a mistake, I reflect to myself.

I feel bad for both Mia and the game center for showing a lack of enthusiasm in front of the store when we got there.

If I was going to tell her that I wasn't good at it, I should have said so more clearly.

On top of that, if I could have said I didn't want to go there, I would have been able to go to another place without getting into a strange situation――――.

Oh, I see.

Right now, I'm afraid of this person.

I've had experiences of being approached by men before, and each time I've acted tough and gotten through them, but today I can't do that.

Probably because I'm not "MIA" right now. 

(Rintaro-kun...!)

I call his name in my mind.

Even if I could shout it out loud, Rintaro-kun wouldn't come here.

I was the one who told him to wait for me.

By now, he must be waiting near the game center.

So, I can't expect any help. 

All I can do is try to stay in this place with my cowered legs.

Seeing me make such a small resistance, the man makes an obvious expression of irritation. 

"Tch...... You're so annoying! Just shut up and come with me!" 

"――――Excuse me." ()

"HUUH!? What do you want!?" 

"That girl, she is with me." ()

Suddenly, the arm that grabbed me is released.

It seems that someone had intervened and forcefully removed the man's arm from me. 

Slowly, my gaze shifts to the owner of that arm. 

"Yo, looks like I barely make it in time." (Rintaro)

It's "Rintaro-kun" who is there, he smiles with relief when he meets my eyes.



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